The nature of inequalities between men and women dates back to the sociologist view of Emile Durkheim, and the idea of social facts and the essence of an individuals ability to act independently of the obstacles that deter from their personal right of achieving social equality (Ferrante 5). As Durkheim lay the groundwork for gender inequalities in society, the inequalities in leadership roles in the workplace are also in turn modeled by a society’s hierarchical structure or choice of social agency. Furthermore, the patriarchal social structure in the workforce in which women are seen as inferior is perpetuated by the collective social belief of female inferiority and a male dominance of power, as created by a mutual interaction between men and women. Since the women’s rights movement, the presence of women in the workforce has been increasing greatly, but discrimination and inequality in earnings is still prevalent in leadership positions. The nature of gender inequalities in society have laid the foundation for a structured system of inequality in the workforce while simultaneously reinforcing the social construct of male dominance and the psychological belief of self inferiority in females.
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The nature of gender inequalities in leadership positions can be partially attributed to the viewpoint of Emile Durkheim in relation to social facts and the effect of a social structure that invests most power in males. Werner J. Cahnman and Joseph Maier’s article on sociologist, Emile Durkheim, in the Encyclopaedia Judaica, highlights Durkheim’s inquiries on social inequalities that are still prevalent today. Durkheim’s legacy was partially created by the connection he made between a social fact and it’s affect on societal structures, such as occupational status. According to Durkheim, because society “is above man and penetrates man [at the same time], it is ultimately the only thing that has the power to [. . .] submit them to rules of conduct, to privations, and to the kind of sacrifice without which society would be impossible” (Cahnman and Maier 63). Durkheim suggests that the individual of society experiences an indirect dependence “by focusing his attention on everything essential to the maintenance of society: its principle norms, values, institutions, its sacred symbols”, and as a result, they are subject to obey the popular belief of a hierarchical structure. This in turn leads to a distinct gender inequality between men and women (Cahnman and Maier 63). The opposing force of an authoritative societal structure is agency. According to writers Terri Apter and Elizabeth Garnsey of the Women’s Studies International Forum, the sociological debate of structure and agency emphasizes “the individual’s capacity to act independently of structural constraints” (20). Whereas Durkheim suggested that society maintains stability and structure through the individual’s submission to structure, agency advocates for the individual to be an active participant in society and face the constraints of society head on. As women are constantly perceived as inadequate active citizens in their society, they have learned to internalize the social constraints and reinforce the perception of females in society as the inferior counterpart of males.
The nature behind this hierarchical social structure that gives way to gender inequalities in the workforce is partially affected by psychological constraints that women experience through the structural constraints of society. Apter and Garnsey explain that social actions refer to the interactions and “mutuality of experiences” between the participants of society to formulate a common belief stemming from “constructional constraints in society” (19). Furthermore, as the belief of male superiority and female inferiority is formulated as a common conception, the “woman’s failure to act independently of social constraints prevents [her] from asserting their rights and successfully challenging the status quo in which [she] has an unequal share” (Apter and Garnsey 21). Women have been socialized to accept social constraints, causing an overall lack of agency that is essential to obtaining positions at the top of the hierarchical social structure. Societal gender inequalities were first formulated centuries ago, with causes stemming from social constraints working against women as enforced by the male dominance and the female’s submission to the society’s structural hierarchies. The American Psychological Association released the article, “Role Congruity Theory of Prejudice Toward Female Leaders” in the Psychological Review in July of 2002, to highlight the blatant prejudices toward women in leadership positions, as well as the obstacles women face in their endeavor to reach the top. Researchers Alice H. Eagly and Steven J. Karau state in this article that “leadership has been predominantly a male prerogative in corporate, political, military, and other sectors of society” and although women have, indeed, gained “increased access to supervisory and middle management positions”, they continue to “remain quite rare as elite leaders and top executives” (575). While women have come far from the times before the Women’s Rights movement, there is still room for improvement, as societal constraints continue to hinder a woman’s occupation of a leadership role in the workforce.
The causes behind workforce gender inequality is undoubtedly a product of societal constraints that inhibit a woman’s upward strive to leadership. The belief of male superiority in the workforce is reinforced as the “terms of male power rest on the assumption that society is structured to support male interests” (Apter and Garnsey 19-20). This belief of male superiority has perpetuated a distinct gender segregation that has been a long acting force in nearly every aspect of a woman’s life, as “prejudice against women causes and continues job segregation at work, while directly and indirectly men maintain that power in the home” (Apter and Garnsey 21). Because women often are expected to stay home and help create a family unit, “women are viewed as largely powerless when faced with such structures as the educational system and job segregation, which appear in crucial ways to embody male power” (Apter and Garnsey 20). As a result, a female’s worth is often determined by the male population, and the possibility of success is limited.
As social constraints block upward mobility, women have become socialized to psychologically limit themselves as a gender in their vocations, allowing the male gender to take on the role of superiority. This is emphasized by Apter and Garnsey in the Women’s Studies International Forum suggests that “women are seen from this perspective to take a shrewd measure of the cost of success in male terms in a male world and, accordingly, to choose different goals and other means of achieving them” (20). This viewpoint suggests that the inequalities in gender are not only enforced by powerful male figures, but also by the female population instead. According to this perspective, “if women freed themselves psychologically, if they changed their outlook, they could take action to remedy inequalities” (Apter and Garnsey 20). As society has formulated a belief of female inferiority, the possibility – in both a woman and man’s mind – of a woman reaching an elitist position of leadership in the workforce is seen as completely unattainable.
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The main reason that perpetuates the job inequalities between men and women in the workforce can be attributed to the blatant discrimination of women’s entrance into previously male dominated jobs. The article, “Gender Inequality Across Local Wage Hierarchies” by Matt L. Huffman explains this gender discrimination and the limitations of female workers. Huffman states that the explanation behind “gender inequality jobs include a cultural devaluation of work done by women” as well as the fact that “hiring discrimination restricting women’s access to some jobs” inevitably results in “occupational crowding that drives down pay in female-dominated jobs” (324). Huffman accordingly inquires that another mechanism in perpetuating this inequality is “in the ability of powerful groups (such as men) to monopolize the most powerful positions in organizations” which can be found in jobs that ensue “the highest skill requirements, opportunities for advancement, and/or chances to exercise authority” (325). Huffman furthers his argument by conceptually calling his claim a “social closure process” in which “gender inequality is created and sustained through the allocation of women and men into positions that differ along key pay-related dimensions” (325). Huffman argues that societies “function to maintain the dominant group’s interest by sustaining existing inequalities in workplace through power and rewards” (325). This social closure process coincides with the sociological term the “glass ceiling effect” of which “blocks women’s social mobility into the upper levels in organizational hierarchies” as it explains the constant limitation experienced by women in climbing the ladder of success when in competition with male authoritative figures. Accordingly, studies have shown that within the presence of the glass ceiling effect, “increased inequality at high levels of an outcome, such as earnings and authority” are often present as well (Huffman 326). The inequalities in the workforce can be best understood by the wage discrepancies between equal paying jobs of men and women, primarily in leadership positions.
The findings from research in this particular area of study on gender inequalities show that there is a noticeable inconsistency between the earnings of men and women not only in equal job statuses, but primarily in positions of leadership as well. Two sociologists, Steven Sweet and Kimberly Baker, designed two learning modules to increase college student’s understandings of gender and racial inequalities in their intended vocations. The study supplied students with information and data from the census of that particular year, showing that the gender inequalities do exist in today’s society and are extremely prevalent. The data show that women under-earn men in 94.1 percent of the student’s chosen occupations, in 91.1 percent of all occupations, and in 92.4 percent of upper tier occupations (Sweet and Baker 7). Accordingly, it is only found that within 5.5 percent of the student’s chosen careers, 8.4 percent of all careers, and 7.1 percent of upper tier careers that men and women make equal earnings today in America (Sweet and Baker 7). As shown in these statistics, it is nearly impossible to escape gender inequalities in the workforce throughout America. Furthermore, The Psychological Review shows research that coincides with this phenomenon as they collected an array of statistics pertaining to major leadership roles that consistently show inequality, namely: “women constitute 4% of the five highest earning officers in Fortune 500 companies and 0. 4% of the CEOs (Catalyst, 2000); 13% of senators, 14% of congressional representatives, and 10% of state governors (Center for the American Woman and Politics, 2001); and 2% of military officers at the level of brigadier general and rear admiral or higher (U.S. Department of Defense, 1998)” (Eagly and Karau 573). As the preceding statistics show, women representation in the elite power jobs is highly limited; despite the fact that the number of women in the workforce has been steadily increasing. According to the New York Times, “throughout the 1900s and 2000s, and until this recession, women occupied less than 49 percent of the workforce. However, that percent has now crossed the 50 percent threshold for the first time” (Mulligan). Yet despite this achievement, “women make only 77.5 cents for every dollar that men earn” and to further these facts, statistics show that as the amount of education a woman has increases, the greater the disparity will be that she will have to accommodate for; stating that “women in specialty occupations were found to earn just 72.7 percent of what men in the same occupation were earning” (Mulligan). Although women’s rights have come a long way since the predating times of the Women’s Rights Movement, there is still a blatantly obvious discrimination towards women in the workforce, hindering the gender from attaining the success that society has strictly deemed achievable for the male species only.
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